Ann Patchett, call your agent.
The author of books including “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder,” who also runs a Nashville bookstore, couldn’t seem farther removed from the world of HBO’s “Girls” — a show whose characters seem likely to read Sheila Heti or Vice magazine. Besides, as Patchett told Salon, she doesn’t watch TV.
And yet, last night’s episode name-checked the author, when the mother of Lena Dunham’s character announces that she’s having a wonderful time at an academic conference in New York.
“It has been such an awesome conference,” says Becky Ann Baker’s character, a prim middle-aged, upper-middle-class woman. “I never thought I’d meet so many other women who feel the same way I do about Ann Patchett.” The joke here, perhaps, is that Patchett is the sort of tasteful, excellent, high-mid-brow author for whom women like Hannah’s mother would, near-universally, feel a strong affinity.
Patchett is flattered. “I heard about the reference this morning from an old boyfriend who called me a ‘meme,’ and then I had to ask him what a ‘meme’ was,” Patchett told Salon via email. “It’s very nice to think that someone at the show would take the trouble to put me in the cultural loop when clearly I am so far out of it.”
“I was once an answer on ‘Jeopardy!’ and nobody got the question. [The question was worth $1,000 in the category Women Writers.] It’s a little like that, but for a younger, hipper crowd.”
“Girls,” here, shares a certain literary sensibility with forerunner “Sex and the City,” which focused, too, on a writer struggling (sort of) in New York: There were jokes about Michiko Kakutani (whose review prompts Carrie Bradshaw’s breakdown) and Joyce Carol Oates (who suffers an “unfortunate incident” at a ladies’ luncheon). Meanwhile, “Girls” has mentioned Patchett and lightly chided a generation of confessional memoirists with the insufferable “Tally Schifrin” character.
We’re counting down to the Salman Rushdie cameo.
Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_More Daniel D'Addario.